November 3, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe


Chapter III.B.2.a: Equality in the Body of Christ (3:26-29)


Galatians 3.26-29 (KJV)

26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 

Introduction

Paul is going to show in this passage and in the first part of Chapter 4 some of the benefits that come to us by trusting Christ that we could never receive under Law. The Law could never give a believer the nature of a son of God. Christ can do that. Only faith in Christ can make us sons of God.


Commentary

26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 

With the arrival of Jesus Christ, the nation of Israel moved out of childhood and into adulthood. The long period of preparation was over. While there was a certain amount of glory to the Law, there was a greater glory in the gracious salvation of God as found in Christ. The Law could reveal, and to a certain extent it could control behavior, but the Law could not do for the sinner what Jesus Christ can do.

To begin with, the Law could never justify the guilty sinner. “I will NOT justify the wicked,” said the Lord (Ex. 23.7); yet Paul says that God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4.5). King Solomon, at the dedication of the temple, reminded God to condemn the wicked and justify the righteous (1 Kings 8.32); and this was a proper request in light of the holiness of God. The trouble is that nobody was righteous! It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that the sinner is justified—declared righteous—before God.

Furthermore, the Law could never give a person oneness with God; it separated man from God. We find this kind of separation associated with the tabernacle where there was a fence around the tabernacle and a veil between the holy place and the holy of holies. The Law functioned as a method, suggestion, help or guide toward an understanding of moral principles; it was never intended to save anyone. The moral law summed up in the Ten Commandments, is not primarily a set of rules for conduct; in it are eternal principles that are forever true and valid. They are like spokes in a wheel in which Christ is the hub. The Law could not impart life, but it could lead men to Christ in whom is “abundant life.” In that way the Law was not the enemy but the minister and servant of grace.

While God is the father of all people in a general sense because He created them, only faith in Christ can make us His children, the legitimate “sons of God.” I use the word legitimate for emphasis, because the only sons God has are legitimate sons. You are made a true son of God by faith in Christ, and that is all it takes. Not faith plus something equals salvation, but faith plus nothing makes you a son of God. Nothing else can make you a son of God. For you are all sons of God.” How? “Through faith in Christ Jesus.” On the other hand, unbelievers are the children of Satan—“Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, THOU CHILD OF THE DEVIL, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (John 13.9, 10).

An individual Israelite under the Law in the Old Testament was never a son, only a servant. God called the nation “Israel my son” (see Ex. 4.22), but the individual in that corporate nation was never called a son. He was called a servant of Jehovah. For example, Moses was on very intimate terms with God; yet God said of him, “Moses My SERVANT is dead” (Jos. 1.2). That was his epitaph. Also, although David was a man after God’s own heart, God calls him, “David my SERVANT” (see 1 Kings 11.38).

My friend, even if you kept the Law, which you could not do, your righteousness would still be inferior to the righteousness of God. Sonship requires His righteousness, you see, the New Testament definitely tells us, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become CHILDREN OF GOD, to those who believe in His name” (John 1.12). We are given the power (Greek, exousian, meaning, “the authority, the right”) to become the sons of God by doing no more and no less than simply trusting Him. A Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus, religious to his fingertips (he had a God given religion, although it had gone to seed), followed the Law meticulously, yet he was NOT a son of God. Jesus said to him, “Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again'” (John 3.7). I want to be dogmatic and very clear—neither your prayers, or your fundamental separation, your gifts, nor your baptism will ever make you a son of God. Only faith in Christ can make you a son of God.


27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 

I hope you realize that this verse is not a reference to water baptism. Water baptism is ritual baptism, and I believe it is something that every believer is commanded to do. Also, I believe the mode of baptism should be by immersion, because immersion more accurately depicts real baptism, which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit places you in the body of believers. Paul says, “For by one Spirit we were ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12.13). This means that we are identified, we are in reality and truth put into the body of believers, the Church. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” God sees you in Christ. Therefore, He sees you as perfect!

This is important, so I will say it again, “Faith in Jesus baptizes us ‘into Christ.’” This baptism of the Spirit identifies the believer with Christ and makes him part of His body—“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. FOR BY ONE SPIRIT WE WERE ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many” (1 Cor. 12.12-14). Water baptism is an outer picture of this inner work of the Holy Spirit—“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, "Can anyone forbid water, THAT THESE SHOULD NOT BE BAPTIZED WHO HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days” (Acts 10.44-48).

The phrase “put on Christ” evokes the image of one changing garments. The believer has laid aside the dirty garments of sin—“But we are all like an unclean thing, AND ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES ARE LIKE FILTHY RAGS . . .” (Isa. 64.6)—and, by faith, received the robes of righteousness in Christ (see Col. 3.8-15). It means to clothe oneself with His character, to be like Him, especially in our conduct before others. But to the Galatians, this idea of “changing clothes” would have an additional meaning. When the Roman child came of age, he took off the childhood garments, and put on the toga of the adult citizen. The believer in Christ is not just a “child of God;” he is also a “son of God” (see verse 26, where “sons” ought to be translated “adult sons”). The believer has an adult status before God—so why go back to the childhood of the Law.


28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

“You are all one in Christ Jesus”—what a tremendous claim! The Law created differences and distinctions not only between individuals and nations, but between various kinds of foods and animals. Jesus Christ came not to divide, but to unite.

This must have been glorious news for the Galatian Christians, because in their society slaves were considered to be only pieces of property; women were kept confined and were disrespected; and Gentiles were constantly sneered at by the Jews. The Pharisees would pray every morning, “I thank thee, God, that I am a Jew, not a Gentile; a man, not a woman; and a freeman, and not a slave.” Yet all three distinctions are removed “in Christ.”

One’s racial heritage is not the last word for a Christian; “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” One’s social status, including even imprisonment, is not the last word. One’s sex is not the last word; the Christian cause does not rest upon gender, but upon character: “There is neither male nor female.” Paul deals with these profound problems on the deepest basis: “You are all one in Christ Jesus.” In other words, the man who grasps these matters “in Christ” is on the way to freedom. This does not mean that our race, political status, or sex is changed at conversion; but it does mean that these things are of no value or handicap when it comes to our spiritual relationship with God through Christ. The Law perpetuated these distinctions, but God in His grace has declared all men to be on the same level, so that He might have mercy on all men.

Where Christ is present there is unity and equality in diversity. The Greeks divided all people into two classes, Greeks and barbarians, and the Jews called all others “goyim.” Even a proselyte could never be the Jew he might have been if he had been a blood descendent of Abraham. If he happened to be a slave, his religious duties as a Jew must not interfere with his service to his Jewish master. The wife was the property of her husband, and her status ranked with slaves and children. When the foreigner, the proselyte, the wife and the slave stood in an inferior relationship to God under the Law, it made real spiritual unity hard to achieve, if not impossible. Paul understood that if these differences existed in the Church, the missionary initiative would suffer a serious handicap. Yet he was not a radical who advocated an immediate violent revolution. The Jew, when he became a Christian did not need to become a Greek, nor the Greek a Jew. The slave could continue to serve his master, and both “male” and “female” retained their distinctive role in the ongoing stream of life. Nevertheless Paul’s concept of equality and unity in Christ was an emerging revolution, the consequences of which are still being worked out. Wherever His gospel is preached, men become uncomfortable with the age-old equation, “foreigner equals inferior;” with the absurdity of man’s ancient thanksgiving that he had of “not being a woman;” and with the violation of democracy and brotherhood involved in Aristotle’s definition of a slave as “an animated implement.” No consistent Gentile Christian could participate in such a program or repeat the slanders that incited it; and no consistent Jewish Christian could view the Gentiles as special sinners and dogs who should be excluded from the kingdom of God. Women had to be considered as partners in the gospel ministry, and master and slave faced each other as man to man in Christ.

This statement by Paul sums up the conviction that in Christ human problems have a way of resolving and dissolving themselves. Just as Christ is the eternal Presence, the living personal God, so is He the Son of man. He is infinitely more than the greatest Jew or the first Christian. If you want to see what man can be (man’s potential) look at Jesus. All colors and races meet in Him, as the rivers meet in the sea.

Everything going on today in our nation seems to involve race. Our nation appears to be split along racial lines. But this verse says that is not the way God wants it to be. In the body of believers “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” In Christ there are no racial lines. Any man in Christ is my brother, and I don’t care about the color of his skin. It’s the color of his heart that interests me. There are a lot of white people walking around with black hearts, my friend, and they are not my brothers. It is only in Christ Jesus that we are made one.


29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The Law could never make us heirs of God. God made the promise to “Abraham’s seed” (singular, Gal. 3.16), and that seed is Christ. If we are “in Christ” by faith, then we too are “Abraham’s seed,” spiritually speaking. This means we are heirs of the spiritual blessings God promised to Abraham. That does not mean that the material and national blessings promised to Israel are set aside, but that Christians today are enriched spiritually because of God’s promise to Abraham.

Surely there is someone who would ask, “How can we be Abraham’s descendants, since we are NOT Jews?” Let me explain it. We can be Abraham’s descendents because Abraham was saved by faith, and we are saved by faith. Abraham brought a little sheep to sacrifice, which looked forward to the coming of the Son of God, the supreme sacrifice. In my day, Christ has already come, and I can look back in history and say, “Two thousand years ago the Son of God came to earth and died on a cross for me, so that I might have life, and I trust Him.” If I am in Christ, and you are in Christ, then we belong to Abraham’s seed, and we are heirs according to the promise. Isn’t this wonderful!

Inheritance of God’s kingdom was not dependent upon blood relationship with Abraham. All who are ready to claim the new freedom offered through Christ were assured of participation in the legacy. But this gift of God’s grace was required to be shared with all men, and the more it was shared, the more there was to share. The inclusiveness of grace meant the end of the law, with its attendant racial prejudice and religious imperialism.


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